The Afrikaners had a fixed belief that they were racially superior to all Africans, and that the people of Africa had no rights. In general, the British were less doctrinaire about the issue of race than the Afrikaners. They did not see racial purity as a key to survival of their own people, which was the case with Afrikaners, and with Germans under Hitler.
However, the second half of the 19th century brought a surge in pseudo-scientific
writing on race in Europe, most of it dedicated to proving that most races were
inferior to white Europeans. Some of the British ruling elite was very taken
with these ideas.
Cecil Rhodes, the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, and mining millionaire, was one:
"I contend that we are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race."
Cecil Rhodes writing to his friend W.T. Stead.
A HYDRA-HEADED MONSTER
The end of apartheid became a goal that united
all African countries in the 1960's. But back in the 1930's, people in the Gold
Coast were not only contesting colonial rule, but also denouncing European racial
In 1936, an essay competition was set by the Gold Coast Times with
the title: 'How can Youth Develop Cooperation and Harmonious Relations Among
the Races of the Earth?' The competition was won by a young South African, Wycliffe
Mlungisi Ttotsi of the Blythwood Institution, Butterworth, South Africa.
"…there has appeared of late years a veritable Gorgon, a hydra-headed monster which threatens humanity with utter destruction. Racialism, while it contains all the evils of nationalism, has none of its redeeming features…
As I write, the South African Government is in turmoil regarding the advisability of retaining or abrogating the native vote. Owing to the fear of the 'Black Menace' an unnecessary conflict has been created between the principles of democracy and trusteeship…
…Youth, strike now! Undaunted by the threatening bombshells of blood thirsty governments, go forth about your business which is no less than to create a new humanity…"
South Africa was not the only part of the
British Empire where racial segregation was practised. In Kenya and Rhodesia
it was as thoroughly institutionalised as in South Africa. In other parts
of the Empire it was more piecemeal and not written into the legislation.
Much segregation centred on Europeans building residential areas separate
from the local people; health was a common reason given for this. It resulted
in Europeans being detached and lacking in information about the views
and needs of the community.
In Sierra Leone, Europeans lived high up above Freetown on the Hill Station. In Kenya, Europeans were fond of living in the Kenyan Highlands. The barriers between Africans and Europeans tended to increase when women started accompanying their husbands to Africa. Segregation occurred in clubs, bars, churches and hotels, although there were no obvious signs forbidding Africans to enter or be served.
SEGREGATION IN LAGOS
In the 1950's one of the senior officials
in the Colonial Office was of Sierra Leonean English descent. His name
was Ivor Cummings. Arriving at the Bristol hotel in Lagos on colonial
business with a white colleague, known in this account only as Keith,
he found himself delayed at the reception desk by the Greek hotel owner.
"'Pray have you got the name Ivor Cummings on your reservation list?' Cummings asked.
'Oh yes, of course, his name is here,' said the hotel manager but now addressing his question to Keith, 'and when is he coming?'
'I am Ivor Cummings,' retorted the black official. 'This is Ivor Cummings,' Keith said simultaneously, and exasperated. The Greek blushed and it was very noticeable. He quickly vacated the reception counter, leaving behind the untidy business to be concluded by the African clerk behind the desk.
The poor clerk stammered as he tried to explain that black people were not admitted into the hotel.
"You mean as guests? For you are black yourself," said Ivor Cummings angrily and stormed out of the hotel."
Excerpt from The Mystery Gunman, by Kayode Eso.